Roaring '20s Are Recaptured in a Revival of `Oh, Kay!'

OH, KAY! Musical comedy with music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, book by Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse. Adapted by James Racheff and Dan Siretta. Directed and choreographed by Mr. Siretta. At the Richard Rodgers Theatre. `OH, KAY!'' articulates its exclamation mark with exuberant dancing, broad comedy, and a Gershwin score.

To paraphrase the Gershwins from another musical, who could ask for very much more? Well, possibly an added touch of musical sensibility at some points in the performance. Such minor reservations do not detract from the accomplishments of James Racheff and Dan Siretta's revision of the 1926 Broadway hit. Nor did they dim the enthusiasm of the spontaneously applauding audience at the performance I attended.

The adapters have retained the roaring '20s period of the original but have moved the locale from socialite Long Island to bustling Harlem. A splendid all-black cast takes it from there. The lighthearted musical romance now concerns Kay Jones (Angela Teek), the singing star of the Paradise Club; her rich and very smitten suitor Jimmy Winter (Brian Mitchell); the Paradise chorines and the parcel of bungling bootleggers who complicate the plot.

In what is billed as his 88th production, David Merrick has seen to it that most of the familiar Gershwin tunes from the original have been retained. Among them are ``Someone to Watch Over me,'' ``Do, Do, Do,'' ``Fidgety Feet,'' and ``Clap Yo' Hands.''

While the last-mentioned climaxes Act 1, it merely typifies the way the supercharged cast of singers and dancers have been energized to tap their feet at the raise of conductor Tom Fay's baton. The choreography, which skips across the gamut from Charleston to balletic tap, is a treat for admirers of traditional Broadway terpsichore. Solos and ensembles feature such artists as the dazzlingly agile Gregg Burge, Kevin Ramsey, who can tap on point, and Stanley Wayne Mathis, whose ``Fidgety Feet'' almost dance away with him.

Mr. Mitchell makes a strong vocal contribution in a suave performance as Jimmy Winter, the wealthy Harlemite whose townhouse (in the attractive design of Kenneth Foy) is taken over by the boisterous intruders. Mr. Mitchell takes off charmingly in the lesser-known ``Dear Little Girl'' and maintains the hero's romantic resolution amid the farcical shenanigans of the complicated plot.

Miss Teek is as pert and pretty a heroine as the title demands, even though Mr. Siretta has permitted her an inappropriately belting interpretation of the plaintive ``Someone to Watch Over Me.'' (Perhaps the sound system is partly accountable.)

Heading the corps of funnymen, Helmar Augustus Cooper capers mischievously through the role of Shorty, the night club impresario unwillingly turned butler and man-of-all-work. The principals at the Richard Rodgers Theatre include Tamara Tunie Bouquett, Alexander Barton, Mark Kenneth Smaltz, and Kyme.

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